Congratulations! You and your significant other have decided to join the parenthood. This is an exciting time. You may be the type to simply throw away the birth control and buy a bottle of wine or you may be more academic about it and want to know as much as possible on how to optimize your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy. Either approach is great and the only absolute “musts” are getting on a good folic acid supplement and talking with your health care provider if you currently take any medications.*
If you are more studious about conceiving, a quick internet search or browse through Barnes and Nobles' health section may leave you feeling overwhelmed and confused. Eat paleo for pregnancy or go vegan? When you giddily tell your friends you are trying to conceive, more advice comes in. Acupuncture, supplements, yoga, and fertility specialists: What’s a woman to do? Before embracing any practice, diet, or supplement ask yourself 3 key questions:
1. How does this feel to me? If you are sensing dread around doing it (ugggh, but I HATE yoga) then it is probably not a good thing. One fertility diet touts consuming 20 ounces of whole fat dairy per day. Even if that worked, it would surely wreck havoc on your cholesterol and weight. Weigh the pros and cons of any plan and only pursue it if you feel that overall it’s worth it. You may love yoga but can only fit a 6am class into your schedule. It is probably worth doing if you’ll feel better the rest of the day, and you believe it will help your fertility. If you dread doing it, then it will only create a stress response that will hurt you. Also consider if there is a compromise that will work; for example, instead of leaving the house for a 6 a.m. yoga class, you might be able to do an Internet-based class or a DVD.
2. How will doing this affect my relationship and finances? You need to have sex with your partner to make a baby (unless if you are a lesbian, but you still need her support). If he is upset that you are always at yoga class instead of home with him, or panicking that all of that acupuncture will bankrupt you, then this will interfere with the actual cause of babies: making love. Relationships are about balance, so if you really feel you need to do something and your partner disagrees, talk about it and find a compromise. Maybe it means that you go to yoga class twice a month instead of weekly or find a community acupuncture clinic that charges less.
3. What am I basing my belief that this will help on? Does the practice fit with your core values, and what are the credentials of its practitioners/proponents? The authors have a friend (you know who you are!) that easily conceived two beautiful children at age 36 and 38 by “feeling the love in the air”. We love her but doubt that it really is that easy for most. Some people jump into Western medicine (i.e. Clomid, IUIs, IVF), and others are much more comfortable with Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture and herbs). Regardless, make sure it is a good fit emotionally, morally, and financially. Ask yourself: “why am I doing this?” Just because your sister got pregnant on Clomid doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you. Research the practitioners to ensure they are experienced and well trained in their discipline. This is true for the Western route as well as the Eastern, not every OB-GYN understands fertility just like not everyone who dispenses herbs is an expert in them.
Once you decide on a path, periodically check in with yourself on how well it is working for you. Hopefully you will get pregnant quickly. If not, it is important that you feel good during the journey. Keeping a table, like the one below, of your fertility enhancing activities is a great way to keep perspective. Refer to it monthly to check in with yourself and honestly evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Remember, “working” means you like it, not that it is getting you pregnant. There are no magic bullets. If something feels like more of a drain than a help, stop it immediately. As in the example below, things may require readjusting. The woman keeping this table may want to find a walk-in acupuncture clinic or one that offers Saturday hours if getting to appointments on time is stressing her. Obviously, she is done with the herbs.
Practice Start Date How well is this working for me?
Herbs 6/26/2013 They taste terrible, are expensive, and
Tom complains of the smell
Acupuncture 6/29/2013 Love it! Feel so relaxed afterwards
Acupuncture 7/30/2013 Still love it but finding it stressful to
get to appointments on time
If you are starting your family over age 35, then chances are you are the kind of person who puts a lot of thought and research into the important things in your life. This is why you may have married later or delayed childbearing because you wanted to be really, really ready. We have found most first time moms in this age group are highly intentional about their reproduction, which accounts for the lack of an “oops” earlier in life. The downside of this conscientiousness is that it can create a lot of unwarranted stress. If you find yourself paralyzed by all of the information and choices when trying to conceive, slow down and pick the one thing that makes you feel good in that moment. Also, remember that babies are conceived under all sorts of circumstances. However babies are created, they should come from a loving, peaceful place. Maybe our friend isn’t so wrong.
* Always talk to your health care provider before stopping or starting any medication. Let them know you are trying to conceive.